By Levi King
(September 2005) NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Southeast Series champion Jeff Fultz returns to the Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 10 to try and become the first driver to win a record five races there. Fultz won the June race in Sparta and enjoys hometown support from his friends and family in nearby Cincinnati.
Photo by Don Ward
Jeff Fultz climbs out of his car after
a poor qualifying showing in June at
the Kentucky Speedway. He still
won his fourth race, tying the track
record with Frank Kimmel.
As far as his series title defense is concerned, he has some work to do. Fultz, 36, is third in the points standings after eight races, ranking behind last years Rookie of the Year J.R. Norris of Mulga, Ala., and Dusty Williams of Savannah, Ga.
Fultz has seen a stream of less than stellar luck lately. At Julys Music City 150 in Nashville, Tenn., Fultz found himself trapped behind a field of slower cars when the qualifiers were inverted.
The pole-sitter crashed on the first lap and took 10 of us out with him, said Fultz during an Aug. 19 telephone interview from Mooresville, N.C. There wasnt a thing we could do. That put us down about 30 points, so weve gotta try to make that up.
Norris was fortunate enough to escape the tangle of cars and went on to place fourth.
The following weekend, Fultz struggled with handling woes at the Caraway 150 in Asheboro, N.C., Norris clinched his second victory of the season, while Fultz scrambled in at sixth place.
At Greenville, S.C., in August, Fultz blew a tire but salvaged a third-place finish, again behind a victorious Norris.
For Norris, the hard-charging Alabaman, the season began as a disappointing follow-up to his brilliant series debut. Ignition problems at the opener in Greenville forced him out of the race. A second DNF came when he wrecked out at Houston the following week.
Norris began to hit his stride at the next race in South Boston, Va., scoring a third-place finish just after Williams and Fultz. Norris followed with five more consecutive top five finishes, three of them victories.
J.R.s been more consistent than we have the past few races. Weve had some bad luck, but were hoping to turn that around at Myrtle Beach and Kentucky, Fultz said.
On Sept. 4, the Southeast Series returns to Myrtle Beach, where Fultz has won four straight races.
The 150-mile, 100-lap Bluegrass 150 in Sparta could also provide much needed relief for Fultz. With a career four victories at the Kentucky Speedway, Fultz is tied with ARCA driver Frank Kimmel for the track record. Kentuckys my home track, noted Fultz. Its always great to run there because I get to see so many people from home. Hopefully, we can win one more than Frank Kimmel and set a new record.
A win at Sparta wont come without a challenge from Norris, however. At the series previous visit to Sparta on June 16, Fultz fended off Norris challenges to take the victory by just 0.3 second. Mechanical problems during qualification forced Fultz to start at the rear of the field, but he steadily worked his way forward. When leader Stanley Smith spun into the wall on lap 72 of 100, Fultz took the lead and held on through the checkered flag. The win was Fultzs 24th in the Elite Division, making him the series all-time leader.
With five of the seasons 13 races remaining, Fultz is optimistic. Our main advantage is that weve been at it for so long, Fultz said. Ive been running this series since 1997. This team has been together for six years, and weve got some great people here.